By: Tony Bedard (story), Javier Pina (art), Jason Wright (colors)
The Story: Beowulf isn’t interested in doing anything too touristy for his one day in New York City.
The Review: It’s always a shame when a title with an interesting format or concept fails, no matter how deserved. You can’t deny that DC Universe Presents has been mostly a failure, though a noble one. In theory, having a title that can feature some of the underrepresented figures in the DCU, or perhaps allow a writer to deliver that one good idea for a story that’s not ongoing, sounds great. In execution, we’ve far more misses than hits.
The series has always suffered from too much mediocrity in the writing, which it can ill afford. An ongoing starring a popular character can easily scrape over a few forgettable issues without much suffering, but a title with a revolving door of features gets consistency in only one way: its quality of talent. Having an entire arc of Dan Didio and Jerry Ordway on a Challengers of the Unknown story is not going to cut it, I’m afraid.*
Neither is Bedard writing Beowulf. Granted, Bedard sounds much more comfortable and engaged here than he has on any other project of his I’ve read. He seems to really enjoy that mythic style of narrative, full of grandiose language and ominous portents. Beowulf sounds very convincing when he declares that “[Grendel’s mother] must have cheated death and resumed her labors elsewhere, for the púca bears the hallmark of her twisted genius.”
Honestly, I would be kind of interested to see more of this story, though not necessarily attached to the DCU in any way. The idea of a future where mankind has regressed to a feudal lifestyle, where science is equated with sorcery and technology drives the monster and warriors of that age, is compelling enough without having superheroes attached. Name-dropping Superman or the Flash just seems like a pointless distraction from the material Bedard’s truly invested in.
For that reason, Beowulf’s extremely brief sojourn to the present-day is mostly inert, devoid of any significance, importance, or impact whatsoever. Bedard writes it well enough, but not only is the shapeshifting púca totally underwhelming as an antagonist (Beowulf doesn’t even break a sweat as he dispatches her within the span of several panels), but at no point does he interact with the DCU at large. He leaves no sign of his presence and he returns to his own era, having gained nothing from the experience.
I also question Bedard’s choice of introducing Gwendolyn Pierce to the story. She’s purely decorative, not really necessary in any sense of the word, except as a means to return Beowulf to his former status quo. Despite Bedard’s attempts to paint her as an obsessively committed scholar, she exerts no personality at any point in the issue. For her to make the impulsive decision to join Beowulf upon his return to the future, so that the issue ends on a “The End?” kind of note, is misplaced confidence of the gravest kind.
Pina’s art is practically a replica of Jesus Saiz, and I think even the most artistically distinguishing readers will agree. It’s quite uncanny. He has the exact same clean, flexible style, able to mix sci-fi and mythic figures all in one and make both look convincing. Like Saiz, he makes the characters look attractive and well-built, but without turning them into silly caricatures of the human physique. If DC is ever going to develop a house style of art, they should consider this as a model, what with two artists delivering such consistent results. Jason Wright has always done right by every artist he’s done coloring for, and there’s no exception here.
Conclusion: Although not surprising in the least, it is nevertheless still disappointing that this title sings its swan song on such an unmemorable, sour note. I say farewell with pity, but with no sadness.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Though leading off with Paul Jenkins writing Deadman probably didn’t give the series the strongest start, either.